‘Game of Thrones’ Star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau on Jaime’s ‘Purest’ Love for Brienne and Male Nudity
The dashing Danish actor discusses his character’s big Episode 8 on the HBO fantasy-epic, managing Jaime and Cersei’s twincest, and the issue of nudity equality on the show.
Jaime Lannister, Game of Thrones’ rakishly handsome Kingslayer, has come a long way from tossing poor Bran Stark out of a tower window for climbing in on him shagging his sister doggy style. He’s lost his sword fighting hand, been torn apart from his sister-lover Cersei, and seen two of his incest-kids die horrible deaths (good riddance, Joffrey), and another, Tommen, become an effeminate, lily-livered loser puppeteered by a religious fanatic.
The Mad King killer’s most enlightening relationship, however, has come courtesy of Brienne of Tarth—a warrior of House Tarth and devoted bodyguard to the Stark ladies. During their two-season trek to King’s Landing, they began as sworn enemies, with Jaime mocking Brienne for her looks and Brienne knocking some sense into him, but over time, and after thwarting bear attacks and gang-rape attempts, they became trusted allies, culminating in Brienne cradling stump-handed Jaime like a child in the communal bath at Harrenhal as he told her the story of why he slayed the Mad King.
It had been a season and a half since Jaime outfitted Brienne with his suit of armor and Valyrian steel, aka Oathkeeper, and tasked her with finding Sansa Stark and keeping her safe. And now that Brienne’s successfully reunited Sansa with Jon Snow at Castle Black, the towering warrior has come to Riverrun to try and convince Sansa’s great-uncle, Brynden “Blackfish” Tully, to join forces with Team Stark. There, in Episode 8, she runs into Jaime, who’s keen to take the castle himself.
They exchange pleasantries (“I know there is honor in you, I’ve seen it myself,” says Brienne), and, in a touching scene, Jaime lets her keep Oathkeeper. But the wily Lannister son pulls an ace out of his sleeve in Edmure Tully, or Sansa’s actual uncle, convincing the browbeaten captive to talk the Blackfish and his men into laying down their arms, as he is their lord. “That’s exactly why I came here,” Jaime tells Edmure. “I love Cersei. You can laugh at that if you want, you can sneer, it doesn’t matter. She needs me. And to get back to her, I have to take Riverrun.”
By episode’s end, Jaime’s taken Riverrun, the Blackfish is dead, and Brienne and Pod are rowing away in a boat. Jaime spots them and waves at Brienne. The Daily Beast spoke to Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, the Danish actor who so brilliantly plays Jaime Lannister, about his character’s evolution, and much more.
Emilia Clarke’s been quite vocal about having more nudity equality on Game of Thrones, since it’s usually the women who bare all and rarely the men.
There was that shocking shot with the theater group backstage, and the first thing you see is a close-up of this guy checking out his privates. I have to say, I don’t need more of that.
Right. I think a lot of the male nudity on the show has been played for laughs or disgust, from that scene to the man flashing Cersei during the walk of atonement to Hodor’s giant Hodor, whereas the female nudity is more sexual in nature. You had Loras Tyrell and the other guy having sex and being intimate together. I’m sure that there could be more. One of the things I actually like about this season is there’s not that much sex anymore on the show. There’s nothing wrong with sex, but I love the fact that there’s less of that and more intense drama. But nudity equality? Yeah, sure.
On Thrones this season we’ve seen the evolution of Jaime Lannister from the rakish Kingslayer to the skilled politician (and tactician)—in part because of his hand.
Things have changed in Jaime’s life on a big scale. Early on, his whole identity was tied to being the best swordsman and soldier in the Seven Kingdoms, and now that’s been cut off from him. He’s had to rediscover himself and who he is, and having this huge secret his whole life of being the father of these children [Joffrey and Tommen Baratheon], and for the briefest of moments discovering the pride and joy of being a father—only to have it snatched away the moment he experiences it. Losing his father was major, too, and understanding that there are no other Lannister men left, he wonders whether he’s going to be Tywin No. 2 or his own man. What happened in Episode 6, the fact that he’s no longer a Kingsguard—which he was for life—has made him as free as you could be when you’re Jaime Lannister.
Let’s talk about that great Episode 8 scene between Jaime and Brienne.
What I love about it is the buildup. Just before we cut into the scene, we have Bronn outside the tent with Pod, and he says, “Well, what do you think? Do you think they’re fucking? I think they’re fucking. I know he wants to fuck her, I know she wants to fuck him, so what do you think?” And then it cuts back in and you see this very respectful way of discussing politics. It’s a negotiation with a very clear subtext of two people who have very strong feelings for each other, but are caught in a situation that’s just beyond them. Their jobs overshadow everything else. There’s no room for the private Jaime and Brienne—they’re on a mission.
The end of the scene is lovely, too, where Brienne pauses to return Oathkeeper to Jaime and he tells her to keep it.
She fulfilled her oath and the job was done, and she hands it to him and he says, “It’s yours—it will always be yours,” and it’s his way of saying, “You’ll have my heart—you’ll always have it.” It’s so sweet, and then a second later she says that if the shit hits the fan, she’s going to have to fight him, and we all know that means she’s going to kill him because he doesn’t stand a chance against her. I just love that because clearly they don’t want that result to happen, but they’re so caught up in being very, very loyal, honorable people to whatever cause they’re fighting for. For her, it’s being loyal to the Stark Family, and for him, it’s to the Lannisters.
It seems that Brienne’s morality, conscience, and sense of honor and duty rubbed off on Jaime during their time on the road.
I think he’s always been loyal, but he’s been loyal to his family and the people he loves. When he broke the oath and slayed the Mad King, I think it broke something in him because he’d never do that. He went very far and tried desperately not to get to that point.
Although Jaime has been breakin’ the rules with Cersei the entire time.
[Laughs] Yeah, that’s true. But love changes everything. He’s the Kingsguard, but he never promised not to sleep with his Queen! I don’t think that’s stated in the Kingsguard manual. They left that one out. They should probably put that in there, but for some reason it never crossed their mind. It should be an amendment to the Kingsguard manual: “Don’t fuck the Queen.”
Do you think that there is a romantic connection between Jaime and Brienne?
I think there are strong emotions. There’s love there. I think it’s one of the purest forms of love that Jaime’s experienced. The fact that he risks his life to save her from the bear attack, as well as when he stops the rape of her—and loses his hand because of that—is powerful. In the bathtub scene, he opened up to her and told her things he hadn’t told anyone, including the truth of why he killed the Mad King and the enormity of that trauma. For her to embrace him after that was, as I see it, an act of love.
Is it their collective shame that brings them together, too? Brienne gave that beautiful speech about being mocked as a child at dances for her appearance, and Jaime has lived his life as the subject of ridicule for everything from his Kingslayer rep to the incest whispers.
You’re right there. That’s the beauty of the whole partnership when it starts out—they despise each other because they see parts of themselves in each other. But as time passed, they realized that they have so much in common because they’re both outsiders, soldiers, and strongly believe in loyalty.
She’s also one of the only ones that sees the honor within Jaime.
Right. And she’s the only one—apart from his sister and brother—who calls him Jaime and not “Kingslayer.” She sees him as a human being.
And as far as the conversation with Edmure goes, we see Jaime start to show the Tywin in him—the cunning and ruthless politician.
I love that scene. Jaime took the most precious thing Edmure had—his self-esteem and honor—and took that away from him by basically saying, listen, I know you’ve been in captivity for years now and have refused to budge, and I admire that, but this is the way it’s going to go down: either you do as I tell you to do, and you give up the castle and the respect from your peers, or your son, the most important thing in your life, I’ll take your little kid and launch him into Riverrun with a catapult, and then I’m going to kill everyone there.
The whole kid-tossing threat reminded me of when Jaime tossed Bran out the window: “The things I do for love.”
[Laughs] Yeah, exactly. It’s very brutal and when you hear him say it you think, wow, what a terrible thing to do, but at the end of the day, it’s saving the lives of many of the people in the castle because Jaime’s going to take it with his men—it’s just a matter of time and how many people are killed. At the end of the day, Edmure’s pride is hurt beyond repair but I’m sure the hundreds of people inside the castle with families appreciate that they’re still alive.
During the Edmure exchange, Jaime also admits his love for Cersei, telling him, “I love Cersei. You can laugh at that if you want, you can sneer, it doesn’t matter. She needs me. And to get back to her, I have to take Riverrun.”
I love the fact that this is the first time he says it to anyone. “You can laugh at that if you want, you can sneer,” I don’t give a fuck now. The world that he knew has changed dramatically. There’s been this extreme religious uprising, everyone’s double-crossing everyone, and nobody can be trusted, so why even bother pretending anymore? If everyone is going to sneer and talk behind his back, Jaime might as well just acknowledge it because then you take away whatever leverage they have over you. It’s reckless in a way, but it’s also to show Edmure that he has nothing to lose, and will do whatever it takes.
As an actor, how do you manage making your character seem likable and noble while also being in an incestuous relationship with your sister?
Well, now we’re talking morals—my morals or your morals—but I don’t see it that way. I see two people who, when they were very young began this love affair. It’s what they’ve known, and because of that, for such a long time—apart from their brother—nobody knew the truth. There was a lot of talk and whispering, but they existed inside this bubble. It’s wrong from a moral standpoint because, from a biological perspective, your offspring might not turn out too great.
Exactly. They love each other and they have sex, but those are morals. There’s morality in this world, but if you look at the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant, they have strong morals, but is that preferable? You have this world with a different set of morals. Whenever you travel to a new world, you have to adapt to a different set of morals, and Westeros is no different.